Let pan-democrats visit mainland, says Legco chief
Tsang Yok-sing has called on Beijing to engage in dialogue with prospective pan-democratic contenders for the 2017 chief executive race and allow them to visit the mainland.
The outgoing Legislative Council president, who enjoys close mainland ties, says it is imperative for Beijing and the pan-democrats to communicate and reconcile.
'It will be tough, but it doesn't mean it cannot be achieved,' he said. 'I think all sides should have a higher level of pragmatism and common sense.
'It doesn't mean [a pan-democratic candidate] can't criticise the policies of the Chinese government, but [he or she] should win the trust of the central government. [He or she] is obliged to do that. I believe it would be impossible for anyone who bids for the chief executive post to put forth platforms that are confrontational to the central government. All contenders would express their wish to co-operate with the central government [instead].' Reviewing his four-year Legco presidency, Tsang lamented a missed opportunity in 2009 when his proposal for the central government to invite all 60 lawmakers to attend the 60th National Day celebrations in Beijing was rejected due to fears of unruly behaviour by certain legislators.
Asked if Beijing could accept a pan-democrat to take the helm of Hong Kong when universal suffrage was in place, Tsang said: 'I won't guess. I am a pragmatist ... various political factions should enhance their communication with the central government so that Beijing can get to know more about them.'
He also suggested Beijing allow potential pan-democratic hopefuls to visit the mainland in future.
The former chairman of what was the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong admitted that reconciliation between Beijing and pan-democrats would be a tough task. Tsang dismissed pan-democrats' fears over their chances of being filtered out by the nominating committee that was eventually set up for the top leadership election in 2017. He said pan-democrats should be more worried about whether they could field a candidate who was good enough to run the city and that their prospective contenders should strive for Beijing's support.
He said all Hongkongers, including Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan, should be allowed entry to the mainland as long as their visits were for legal activities. The pan-democrats should not just be issued one-off permits, he said.
Tsang conceded that it would be impossible to arrange a visit by all 60 lawmakers en masse to the mainland before this Legco term ends in July. He said he had proposed such a visit to the central government's liaison office when Beijing was mulling over the guest list for Hong Kong's delegation to the capital for the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 2009.
'At first, officials at the liaison office told me it would seriously consider it,' Tsang said. 'But later, they replied to me that they were worried that if [some Hong Kong lawmakers] held protests during the celebrations, it might affect state leaders' image before foreign guests.' He added: 'They pledged to arrange another visit, but I have since not heard from them.'
Labour Party chairman and lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, who has long been denied entry to the mainland, said: 'Beijing should allow pan-democrats to visit the mainland unconditionally, which can prompt a real reconciliation.' Lee, who chairs the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, said of Tsang's idea that prospective pan-democratic hopefuls had to win support from Beijing: 'How could we know what kind of people are acceptable to the central government?'